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Calif. Voters Approve Ballot Measure to Stave Off ‘Trigger Cuts’ at State Colleges

On the same night that President Obama won a convincing victory in a race for re-election that at one time was considered too close to call, Gov. Jerry Brown of California appears to have pulled off a win in a similar squeaker. The Democratic governor declared victory for Proposition 30, a ballot measure crucial to the financial future of California’s public colleges. Proposition 30 led 54 percent to 46 percent with 87 percent of precincts reporting.

Governor Brown introduced the measure in order to help cover a $16.7-billion state-budget shortfall. If it passed, Prop 30 would raise the sales tax by a quarter of a cent and increase the income tax on top earners. If it failed, the governor’s 2013 budget called for a series of “trigger cuts” that would reduce state support for the University of California system, the California State University system, and the California Community Colleges by nearly $1-billion.

Polls earlier this year indicated that a majority of the state’s voters supported the measure, with as much as 64 percent in favor. But criticism from the state’s strong antitax forces and competition from a competing education-based measure, Proposition 38, eroded voter support as Election Day drew near.

Under California law and the language of the measures, Prop 30 needed to earn 50 percent or more of the vote, and to earn a larger percentage than Prop 38 did, if the latter also surpassed 50-percent approval. But voters handily rejected Prop 38, with 74 percent opposed as of early Wednesday morning.

With the passage of Prop 30, state appropriations for public colleges will remain near 2012 levels for 2013. The three tiers of California’s public higher-education system have seen their state appropriations reduced by more than $2.5-billion since 2008.

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